100 pressups made easy: and other reasons why on-the-minute training is the best thing ever


Because my brain and nervous system are the product of millions of years’ evolution, I am fundamentally quite lazy. I don’t take well to wasting energy – I’m designed to be efficient and hold onto what my body still thinks are scarce resources. And because of that, a lot of my training is designed to trick myself into doing a large volume of work in quite a short space of time, because I’m not likely to do it voluntarily. If you’re one of my fellow humans, there’s a chance this will work for you too.
Enter on-the-minute training. I’ve been doing it in various combinations for most of this year, and it works for almost everything. It works because:

1. You can’t lie to yourself about your rest periods: you either get the work done, or you don’t.

2. It lets you keep your intensity high. If you set out to, say, hit a punchbag as much as you can in ten minutes, you’re going to be doing most of your punches with all the vicious, focused power of a mildly angry baby. If you do on-the-minutes, you can attack every set like Clubber Lang and then rest in the breaks.

3. Ten minutes (for instance) isn’t actually that long, so any workout that ‘only’ takes ten minutes is almost impossible to find an excuse not to do.

How does on-the-minute training work? Easy: you pick a move (or a pair of moves, or at the very most three moves) to do at the ‘top’ of each minute, ie when the clock ticks over. When the reps are done – whether that takes 10 seconds or 50, you rest. At the top of the next minute, you go again. The trick is, this works with almost anything. Here are some methods I particularly like.

Hence the title of this post. 10 pressups on the minute for 10 minutes is 100 press-ups. You’ve got the time to do that every day, and don’t pretend otherwise. It *should* be easy: if 10 pressups isn’t a laughably low number for you to do in a single set, then pick a number that is – even if it’s 1 – and do that. If 20 press-ups is nothing to you, do 200. You should be aiming to do a total volume of pressups that sounds mildly worrying – something you wouldn’t be able to get in three max-out sets, say.

The single easiest way to get good at pullups, bar none. I’d suggest doing them like the press-ups: I do five on the minute for five minutes at the start of every workout, varying between overhand, underhand, rings and gi grips. I’m not going to failure, so it’s just a warmup – but I’m still getting 25 quality reps done every day. Want more of a challenge? Do five on the minute, but just keep going until you can’t get your five done within the alloted 60 seconds. This is a fine way to prepare for your Sunday roast. Muscle-ups, another move where going to failure tends to be counter-productive, are fantastic for OTMs.

Olympic lifts
It’s quite easy to be a baby when it comes to Olympic lifting, and kid yourself that you ‘need’ five minutes’ rest between every set. You don’t: just pick a weight that isn’t going to crush you, and do a rep or two on the minute for a few minutes. I pushed my snatch up to near-bodyweight *mainly* by doing 8 sets of 2 on the minute, with 6 sets of singles in the clean & jerk for pudding. Even with a quality warmup, this is a fine way to do a decent Oly workout in under an hour.

Farmer’s walk
If you want to burn fat, build muscle, get lean arms, build your six-pack, improve your deadlift, look like a badass and get traps like Tom Hardy, *nothing* beats the farmer’s walk. And for fat-burning especially, OTM farmer’s walk is your friend. Aim for a heavy weight and a fairly short distance: I’d suggest carrying your own bodyweight in each hand, going for 30 metres on the minute…for ten minutes. Get that done, and you have my permission to eat anything you like for the rest of the day.

Battling ropes
Far too many trainers treat these fine bits of kit, now available in loads of gyms, as a form of rhythmic gymnastics where the aim is to make increasingly hypnotic patterns with the rope. This is bullshit. Just *savage* the ropes – do 20 seconds on the minute, for ten minutes, and slam them up and down like you’re beating Jason Voorhees to death in the final reel of Friday The 13th.

It also works with punchbag intervals, dips, kettlebell swings, rowing, prowler pushes, and almost anything else that doesn’t take a minute to do one set of. Try it today.

HOMEWORK: Pick a number of pressups that you think is about a quarter of your one-set max, and do that, on the minute, for ten minutes, twice this week. Hey presto: you’ve done a load of pressups. 

About the author


Editor and creator of Live Hard. Fighting enthusiast, steak lover and aficionado of all things self-improvement related.

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